RQ -170 Sentinel spy drone downed over Iran

The RQ-170 Sentinel is a Cessna-size UAV built in small numbers by Lockheed Martin sometime in the last decade. The aircraft is moderately stealthy by virtue of its shape and radar-absorbing coating. “The RQ-170 will directly support combatant commander needs for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to locate targets,” the Air Force explained in 2009, two years after photographers first spotted the drone at Kandahar Air Field in southern Afghanistan.The Sentinel reportedly streamed video to commanders during the May raid to kill Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. The UAV has also been spotted at U.S. bases in South Korea and Japan, leading to speculation that it’s involved in sniffing out nuclear facilities. An RQ-170 Sentinel was recently lost over Iran according to news reports.

" ...China, Russia want to inspect downed U.S. drone
TEHRAN, Dec. 7 (MNA) -- An informed source in the Iranian military has said that Russian and Chinese officials have asked for permission to inspect the U.S. spy drone that was recently downed by the Iranian Armed Forces, Nasimonline.ir reported on Wednesday. On Sunday, an unidentified Iranian military source said that the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic had downed an advanced RQ-170 unmanned U.S. spy plane, which had violated the country’s airspace along the eastern border. There are unconfirmed reports that Iran may put the drone on public display. According to the Washington Post, the RQ-170 drone has been used by the CIA for highly sensitive missions into other nations’ airspace, including months of surveillance of the compound in Pakistan in which Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was allegedly hiding before he was killed in an attack by Special Operations forces on May 1, 2011. On Monday, U.S. military officials said that they are concerned that Tehran may now have an opportunity to acquire information about the classified surveillance drone program, AP reported. U.S. officials considered conducting a covert mission inside Iran to retrieve or destroy the stealth drone but ultimately concluded such a secret operation wasn’t worth the risk of provoking a more explosive clash with Tehran, a U.S. official said, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday...".

from Iranian news site http://www.mehrnews.com/

from http://www.wired.com/

"...Two years ago, pictures leaked of a previously unknown, bat-winged drone operating out of Afghanistan’s Kandahar airport. Speculation spiked about the mission of the mysterious aircraft, instantly nicknamed “the Beast of Kandahar” by secret plane-spotter extraordinaire Bill Sweetman. The drone’s smooth, curved shape meant it was stealthy — hard for radars to spot. But the Taliban didn’t have any radars. So what was the Beast doing? Some suggested that it might be snooping on Iran’s nuclear program. Others thought the drone (officially known as the RQ-170 Sentinel) might be the test bed for a new, microwave weapon to fry enemy electronics or a next-gen jammer to screw with enemy communications. The drone was even spotted over Korea; maybe it was watching missile launches while avoiding the prying eyes of our foes in Pyongyang?..."

" ..Escalating tension over Iran’s alleged nuclear-weapons program could explain the stealthy ‘bot’s presence over the border, but less clear is who programmed the drone’s mission. We know the U.S. Air Force operates the hush-hush RQ-170s — the flying branch has admitted as much. But sources told ABC News that the crashed Sentinel was a CIA asset. It’s not unheard of for the Air Force and CIA to share equipment. Both agencies fly identical Predator drones. Its also not unheard of to have military pilots fly drones under the CIA’s operational control..."

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